02/04/2016 03:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Lessons Learned to Truly Enjoy Traveling


Traveling is exciting and exhausting, exhilarating and stressful. Regardless if you're taking a weekend getaway versus an extended holiday, or if you're traveling on a budget versus a luxury vacation, stepping outside of your comfort bubble to a new city or country will give you both emotional highs and lows. While it is exciting and stimulating to be in a new environment surrounded by everything foreign, our new environment can also bring anxiety as we are not accustomed to local culture and people.

When I travel to a new destination, I become so eager to explore my new city and try local foods, that the excitement turns me into a child seeing shiny objects everywhere. I just want to run through every inch of the city streets, absorb the ambiance of every neighborhood, explode my taste buds with local cuisine, and take photos of anything even remotely interesting. Often times I find my inner kid-spirit to slowly fade as I step outside and the reality of my new environment kicks in; not everything is as "shiny" as I made it out to be in my head. And it's not because I don't enjoy chaotic streets, interacting with local people, or trying meals where I can't name a single ingredient in the dish, it's simply because I haven't mentally transitioned into my new environment. Just because we are physically traveling doesn't mean our minds have psychologically adjusted to being outside our comfort zone. Now after six months of roaming around Asia, I've learned how to truly appreciate my adventures; by traveling both physically and with my mind.

5. Forget About Social Norms And Etiquette From Back Home

When we travel, we often subconsciously forget we are in a new society and still expect the same social norms and customs from our home countries. However, with such unrealistic expectations, we may find ourselves not enjoying the places we travel to. When I was in China, I was extremely annoyed by the crowding, pushing, and lack of personal space in public settings. But China is a country of over 1.2 billion people, four times the number of the U.S. If everyone in China were to line up properly waiting for the bus, the line would wrap around two city blocks. Though certain experiences and memories can be unpleasant, we have to understand every society functions differently, and behaviors that are considered unacceptable or rude from back home may be efficient and effective elsewhere.


4. Being Timid Can Make Situations More Stressful

When we're in a new environment, it's natural to be a little reserved and timid since we are unfamiliar with the culture, people, and language. However, sometimes being timid doesn't work in your favor when you are in a foreign environment. When people approach you to sell trinkets, sometimes smiling and shaking your head doesn't send the message and they need the harsh "NO" to back away. Or when you are unfamiliar with the language, still make an attempt to learn and speak a few words to the locals (even if you mispronounce), they will warm up to you and teach you and you could even make a local friend along the way. Bottom line is there is very little chance you'll see the people you encounter along the road, so just have fun, free your mind, and try not to care about what other people think.

3. Don't Expect Local Cuisine To Taste The Same As Your Home Country

This is a hard one since we all associate General Tso with Chinese food, Chicken Tikka Masala with Indian, and Pad Thai with Thai cuisine. Although you can find most dishes while traveling (except for General Tso; I've traveled all over China and have yet to find it on a menu), try to venture out from your taste buds comfort zone and order local regional dishes for the most authentic flavors. If we hold the same standards for international cuisine when we travel, we will miss a lot of delicious and unique food experiences. There are vegetables, fruits, and spices that are nearly impossible to find back home. So smell the local aromas, devour local specialties, and forget everything you thought you knew about international cuisine, your taste buds will thank you.


2. If You Want To Do Something, Do It Today

How many times have you traveled and afterwards thought you should've experienced more or took more photos or tried more local foods? When I was in Ao Nang Thailand, there was a noodle restaurant I wanted to try, but decided to wait until the next day. Well, the restaurant was closed the next day and I was leaving the day after so I never got my noodles. Two months later I was in Hoi An Vietnam for a week so I thought I had all the time in the world to rent bikes and explore the beach. Well six sunny days flew by without me pedaling a bicycle so on my last day, determined to bike to the beach, I looked out the window and it was thunder storming. Lesson learned. Don't be lazy while traveling, some experiences only has the chance to happen once. Today is the opportunity to turn an adventure into a memory, tomorrow is for embracing the unexpected and unknown journey.

1. Being Homesick Can Have a Positive Effect On Your Travels

Ask anyone that has traveled for an extended period of time and I guarantee almost everyone has gotten homesick at some point during their trip. I've even missed New York City after being away for three days! While being homesick is discouraging, I've also found comfort when I'm missing home; the comfort of knowing there are people waiting for me to share my experiences, the comfort of knowing I will be excited for life after traveling, and the comfort of knowing who I am and proud of where I am from. Most importantly, missing home has made me realize all the details I overlooked before I set out on my trip and it would be tragic to look back on a once in a lifetime journey and have regrets about not embracing enough of the experience.


Photos by Amy Chen

The full version of this article can also be found on the blog, Jetsetting Birds.

Follow Amy on Instagram: